Sakura by the Sea, Onsen, and Castles
If you look at lists of top 10 places to view sakura (cherry blossoms) in Japan, you’ll likely come across parks in Tokyo, at shrines & temples in Kyoto, and in front of Mt. Fuji in Yamanashi. But for those who want a variety of sakura spots, traveling to Hyogo Prefecture provides this springtime sight alongside castles, onsen, water, and more.
One must-see castle is of course Himeji Castle, the oldest and most visited castle in all of Japan. Located in just 1 hour by train from Osaka and Kyoto, Himeji Castle boasts a beautiful white exterior, and thanks to occasional maintenance and restoration, it has been standing since 1333. The castle grounds of Himeji Castle are decorated by hundreds of cherry blossom trees, making it a classic sight to behold during the beginning of April.
Sasayama Castle is a spot that has over 1,000 cherry blossom trees decorating the perimeter. The castle was built in 1609 under the order of Tokugawa Ieyasu, one of the three “Great Unifiers” of Japan. Paper lanterns are lit during sakura season to enjoy viewing at night. Visitors can also see the cherry blossoms reflected in the castle’s moat. The castle is located in Tamba-Sasayama, a quaint castle town that is about 2 hours by train & bus from Osaka.
Of all of the onsen towns throughout Japan, Kinosaki Onsen is a must-visit during the cherry blossom season. This 1300-year-old hot spring town has seven public bathhouses that visitors can enter as they stroll through town. While strolling, guests can enjoy a peaceful atmosphere among the cherry blossom trees that line the town’s canal. During the day and at night, visitors can take gorgeous photos along the line of trees in yukata provided by their inn.
For a hot spring town closer to the major Kansai cities, Arima Onsen provides memorable hot spring soaking as well as cherry blossom viewing. Arima Onsen has both kinsen, “gold springs” which have water colored yellow-brown from iron and salt, and ginsen, “silver springs” which are colorless and contain radium and carbonate. Arima became known as the emperor’s royal onsen after Emperor Jomei took a bath in it in 631.
What may be considered an unlikely place to see cherry blossoms, Takeno Beach has a unique view of sea and sakura on the top of Mt. Jajayama. This viewpoint is a quick 15-minute hike up and provides a gorgeous mix of pink and blue.
Selected as one of the 100 most beautiful cherry blossom spots in Japan, Shukugawa Park boasts 1.6 miles of cherry blossom trees along the Shukugawa River. Located in Nishinomiya City, this park is a great place for some hanami.
In the countryside town of Yabu, Tarumi-no-Ozakura is the largest Edo-higan cherry blossom tree in Hyogo, and has been established as one of Japan's natural monuments. With a height of 45 feet and a trunk circumference of 20 feet, the tree has been said to be over 1,000 years old.
The Kobe Oji Zoo is one of three large zoos in the Kansai region, and houses animals such as pandas, koalas, and monkeys. Cherry blossom trees decorate the zoo, giving it a fun pink backdrop against the animals and attractions. This zoo is easy to visit from Osaka and Kyoto.
Every year, Japan Rail Pass and other sites publish a Japan cherry blossom blooming forecast, which is helpful for travelers looking to see the sakura.
Hyogo Prefecture is easily reachable from Osaka and Kyoto by JR train. The Hyogo Tourism Bureau provides more detailed information about traveling to and within the prefecture.
Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about Hyogo Prefecture or the Kansai region.